It’s every Midwesterners’ favorite time of year: sweet corn season! During the summer, you can find sweet corn at your favorite roadside stand or at your local grocery store. Many times, that sweet corn was grown right down the road from where it’s being sold. I spent a number of summers selling sweet corn from my grandparents’ farm out of the back of a pickup truck. The sweet corn that we all enjoy during the summer months is different from most of the corn that you see in Nebraska. When you drive across the state on Interstate 80, most of the corn you see from the car window is not sweet corn, it is field corn. Field corn is a different type of corn that is used mainly for animal feed and ethanol production. Sweet corn is the kind you’ll find in a husk at the roadside stand, in canned corn and frozen corn. There are three main types of sweet corn: yellow, white and bicolor. Yellow sweet corn has all yellow kernels, white sweet corn has all white kernels and bicolor sweet corn has a mix of white and yellow kernels. Each variety has a different level of sweetness. The sweetness, or sugar, is what helps set it apart from field corn. Sweet corn contains more sugar and less starch than field corn and is ready to harvest a lot earlier. When deciding if an ear of sweet corn is ready to eat, you can perform a simple test. Use your thumb nail and press into a kernel. If a milky white substance comes out, it’s ready to eat! Another way to tell the difference between field corn and sweet corn is the height of the plant. Field corn plants grow much taller, some as much as eight feet or more, while sweet corn plants average five feet tall. Additionally, if you ever decided to eat field corn right of the cob at harvest time, you might break your teeth!
After you’ve picked the best ears of corn and have gotten them to your kitchen, it’s time to cook them! There are a number of different ways to cook sweet corn, and everyone will have their preferred method. Some methods I have tried include boiling, microwaving, grilling and in the instant pot. Each of these methods have their strong points and bring out a different flavor in the corn. Another way that I like to enjoy sweet corn is in a dip like my favorite healthier corn dip recipe, or my friend Hannah Guenther’s corn salad (her Instagram is @Feedlotsofpeople.) No matter how you enjoy your sweet corn this summer, you can enjoy it without fear. Your sweet corn is safe to eat and was grown by farmers like me for families like yours, and mine, to enjoy!